Conquering fear of Square One

"I'm right back at square one."

How many of us have thought this about our training, or any other goal for that matter?

I've thought about it a lot over the months as I slowly, very slowly, return from a stubborn injury.

It's a dangerous mindset. It comes with a sense of loss - all those hard hours seem wasted. It can be a desperate, crushing place to be. I'm back at the beginning. That guy overtaking me, or pushing harder on the treadmill: don't you know how hard I've worked? I used to do more than this. I used to be better than this.

Yes, the Square One mindset is a dangerous place. If you're not careful, it can undo more than mileage - it can entirely unravel your self-belief. Wasting your energy, you risk draining your progress and recovery.



But Square One can be a great place, an enriching place, if you want it to be.

Begin by taking a good look at that sense of loss, the bad stuff, when injury strikes you down. For a start, that 'loss', however big it feels, is more of a lapse - you haven't abandoned ship by taking a recovery break. But let's look at those feelings anyway. Loss of -  

  • Achievement, especially if you were training for a race. All those miles for nothing. 
  • Confidence. Can I trust my body any more? Can I get those miles back? 
  • Pride. I told everyone I was doing that race and now I'm not. 
  • Routine. Not to be underestimated, as you try to find your feet again. 
  • Motivation. What's the point now? 
  • Positive body image. It's amazing how flabby you can feel when you stop running. 
  • Physical stamina / endurance. Months of training seem to vanish. 
  • Control. My body has let me down. 

That's an awful lot to lose very quickly when you're back at Square One. No wonder we all fear it, and pushing those fears away is easier said than done. So embrace them. Loss happens to us all, there is no escaping it, so mourning is actually a healthy process. 

When you recognise the loss you feel when running takes an unexpected hiatus, you begin to accept what you can and cannot control. The stuff you can't: choose to put to one side. Or question whether those things really matter to you.

At Square One, you get to try again. It's like going back in time to a new challenge, but with all the knowledge and experience you've gained. To be at the beginning of something is bloody exciting. You have a clean slate to try things differently. Think of all those exciting new beginnings - a new relationship, turning the first page of an epic book, that feeling when you embarked on running for the first time. 

We all love new beginnings and new chances. When we remember that, Square One doesn't feel that daunting after all. 


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